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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Breaking Bad Habits in the New Year

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Nov 28th 2011

donutAs human beings we create habits, it’s just what our brains do in order to continue to handle more complex tasks. If not for this function we’d all still have a tough time putting food in our mouth. However, sometimes as we practice and repeat things they turn into bad habits. As we bring awareness to this it helps us find ways to become aware of the moment of choice that can make way for a new response.

Spend a moment reflecting on what habitual patterns in your life that you consider unhealthy. Do you say things you wish you hadn't? Do you smoke cigarettes? Do you eat or not eat as a result of stress or maybe repeat certain actions to get away from distressing thoughts?

Allow reading this sentence to be a brief pause for you to recognize that you have a choice to reflect on this before moving onto the next part.

Perhaps there are some habits you have built that are helpful, like exercising, eating healthy, getting good sleep, meditation, or communicating with your partner when you notice something off. We often have a combination of healthy and unhealthy habits.

After reflecting on this piece, take a breath in and breath out integrating what you had just reflected on.

Here's a practice out of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbookthat you can do today:

Spend the day today being conscious of your habits, both healthy and unhealthy. As you do this, see if you can recognize the space where you have a choice on whether to actually engage in this habit or not. At first you may not notice the space and only upon reflection, you can recognize that you engaged in this habit.

However, over the course of the day or many days, you may start to realize that there are moments of choice that you intentionally or unintentionally decide to engage in that habit.

This space is where the The Now Effect takes place.

Even when we have addictive behaviors that have a genetic basis and the pull to smoke, drink, binge, etc... is a physical pull, there is still a space to become aware of. This is the space to make a phone call to a sponsor, recite the serenity prayer or leave the triggering environment.

We're not judging the unawareness of this space as a "bad" thing or something to be shameful of, instead, we're recognizing the fact that ther isn't awareness of this space and beginning to cultivate it.

Try it out.


Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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